By Holly Farason & Laine Zizka
Calvin Kimbrough ’75 spoke endearingly as he recalled his late wife, Ann.
The two met at TCU where a love story for the ages began. He remembers their first date, a fraternity dance in December 1972, and their second two days later – sledding with cafeteria trays in Worth Hills during a snow day. And he remembers what she wore – a pair of grey corduroy Levis and a black belt with a silver turquoise and coral belt buckle.
After that, Calvin said, they spent little time apart.
That unbreakable bond gave the couple the strength to fight Ann’s multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed in 1988.
When Ann, the enjoyer of life, could no longer play one sport, she would find a way to play another – from tennis and golf to sailing and tandem biking. When she couldn’t bike or fly fish, she turned to playing scrabble. In 1994, when Ann needed a wheelchair, Calvin stepped in and carried her on his back wherever she wished to go.
“Ann joked that if we lived in Sweden, where they held piggyback races called the ‘wife carry,’ we would clean up,” Calvin said. “Ann symbolically opted for a manual wheelchair. She felt that an electric wheelchair would be an admission of defeat.”
But defeat was not on Calvin’s mind when Ann died in June 2016. Due to the care they received at the hospital from TCU nurses and the time they shared as Horned Frogs, Calvin decided to leave his estate to Harris College.
“There were several instances in the hospital where [the nurses] were working with the doctors to make sure Ann received the best care,” Calvin said. “They were emotionally supportive to both me and Ann. If anything that bad can be wonderful, they made it so.”
Two of the nurses of whom he speaks are TCU alumnae Jackie Gomez ‘10 and Maggie Ocampo ‘10. They both graduated with a bachelor of science in nursing and cared for Ann at Harris Methodist Hospital in downtown Fort Worth, Texas.
“They had such a great love and friendship,” Ocampo said. “You could tell they had a very strong bond and that stood out to me, how much love they shared. You could see in Calvin’s face how much he loved Ann.”
Despite their circumstances, the Kimbroughs remained lively and hopeful. Gomez recalls the times she spent in Ann’s room, just talking about TCU, how she and Calvin met and their shared love for animals.
“They are the epitome of a perfect marriage,” said Gomez. “Although challenging, an outsider would never know. They handled life’s challenges with such grace.”
It was these very challenges that strengthened Ann’s and Calvin’s undeniably strong bond, which was apparent to everyone who knew them..
Ocampo said she enjoyed visiting with the Kimbroughs because they had a lot in common.
“Ann had a great sense of humor and could always make me laugh,” she said.
While the Kimbroughs experienced many ups and downs, the turning point was when Ann was admitted to Harris Hospital. It was there that Ann received the care she needed from doctors and nurses who truly had her best interests at heart.
“We had a passionate and compassionate doctor and we had unbelievably good nurses; they were absolutely wonderful,” said Calvin.
Calvin said the nurses were the first to give them insight and they were the most important asset – what stood out to him was how caring they were.
“They gave the impression of caring about you, not your condition,” he said.
In fact, the nurses made just as much of an impact on Calvin’s faith as they did on Ann’s care.
“I was agnostic prior to this; now I am a confirmed Catholic,” said Calvin. “I’ve seen a lot of good out of a terribly bad situation. We referred to the nurses as angels, and I truly believe they were.”
While losing Ann was difficult, Calvin got through it with support from the nurses. It was their kindness and compassion that spurred him to donate his estate to TCU Nursing.
“The nurses and their nursing made a huge impression,” Calvin said. “I don’t know anything better to do. If I can do anything in helping other people help other people, then I want to do that. I am sure Ann would agree.”
Over the years, TCU has built up its endowment, making more funds available for scholarships and opening the university to a more diverse population.
With Calvin’s planned giving, Harris College will receive an endowed scholarship and an endowed professorship, which will help the university bring in renowned faculty.
Laura Patton, director of development at Harris College, said the endowed scholarship will directly benefit nursing students. Many students juggle work, heavy academic loads and important internships. Additional scholarships enable students with financial need to focus on their primary job – getting a great education. The endowed professorship will attract and retain eminent national and international scholars to TCU’s nursing program.
“It is a very high honor,” said Patton. “TCU graduates place tremendous value on relationships with their professors. The generosity of this gift will not only bring professors that stand out in the nursing field, it will attract other notable faculty and the brightest students.”
In addition, the endowed professorship will go toward funding faculty and student research.
“I am truly blown away by his generosity toward the school and the nursing program in particular,” Ocampo said. “I think it is wonderful that he is allowing the school to create more nurses to go out and help more people.”
Gomez was in awe when she heard the news.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to know such a generous, kind-hearted man,” she said. “Although this donation is a substantial gift, the gift I received was being able to know Calvin and Ann and providing the care that I was honored to deliver.”
Calvin describes the endowment as part of Ann’s legacy.
“I want it to have an impact on a student’s life and everybody they come into contact with and their professional life,” Calvin said. “I know Ann has made a huge impression on peoples’ lives. That’s her legacy. I hope my legacy would be similar.”
After everything, Calvin will always remember Ann’s last words to him: “Calvin, don’t embarrass yourself.”
As the Kimbroughs’ friends remarked at Ann’s wake that their time together had been a nice ride, Calvin couldn’t help but think that it was so much more.
“It was a great ride,” Calvin said. “Ann, I will not embarrass you.”